Tag Archives: Metroid

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of October 20, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Got a 3D model mostly functional on a 2D tile map
* Various story writing done (more than usual)
* Wrote flavor text for Impini, Gigarat, Greatwolf, Kobold Chief, Ogre, Vivavines

Current focus

Wrapping up character art, starting pixel art, and the transition to 2D.

Sample stuff

Flavor text for Kobold Chief:

Kobold chiefs best exemplify evidence of the common races’ belief that this species could develop and become one of them, like the florauna in the past. Chiefs exhibit multiple high-level combat tactics like body mastery, well-timed reinforcements, and even magic. Although their strategies are slightly let down by their middling strength, all kobolds serve exactly the right masters.

Flavor text for Vivavines:

One side effect of the Shield Our Surface mage rotation, instituted centuries ago, was an upswing in vivavines. These plants always existed in small number, having become carnivorous and more animated by absorbing latent energy from the natural mana flow, but they truly flourished with access to barriers and healing magic continually pumped across the planet. Vivavines primarily aim to trap beasts and siphon energy from them for extended periods, but their own success actually keeps their population in check; after draining a beast for a while, they cease to absorb mana and return to being passive vines.

Weekly goals

* Write bestiary flavor text for remaining enemies
* Figure out how to use 2D Toolkit (and other Unity assets if needed) to get basic top-down map movement functional


One step closer. Previously I couldn’t even make a 3D model (the kind more natural to Unity) operate in a 2D space since it was unmovable or would go through things, so, even though functional 2D still eludes me for now, I’m one step closer. That made me happy enough to focus on that for the week, but I’m still not there quite yet. =P

One bright side of this 2D bottleneck is that I’ve never looked forward to writing the storyline more than I do now. I’ve always enjoyed writing flavor text, of course, but the entire beauty of flavor text is that it’s optional and therefore gets to break all the rules. For example, Metroid Prime is proof that “show, don’t tell” doesn’t apply in video games—it earns the right to tell because the telling is both the reward for and a process of discovery. There are entire backstories about the space pirates and the Chozo and you’d never have the tiniest hint of either one if you don’t seek them out in two ways: physically examining each room for scan points and mentally piecing together the scattered information you’re given. That’s the kind of writing that excites me.

Well, that kind and getting cutesy with alliteration and rhyme and rhythm and homophones.

But the player has to see the main storyline.* So my usual free-form fun with writing feels extra pressure to get all the details right, convey few enough to keep things moving at a good pace but also convey a sufficient number that people know everything they need to know, and so on.

That said, pressure is preferable to not knowing what in the world I’m doing for weeks on end. =P Looking forward to finally figuring this 2D thing out…

* Given infinite resources, I’d make a Gameplay-Only Mode where the story is turned off and even the antagonists join the party as playable characters, kind of like the Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones post-game. After all, if they have no story then they have no character, so there are no moral conflicts or personality incompatibilities. Anything goes and the player who turns off the story is rewarded with superior character choices. But given finite resources, well…

Arguing Whether Video Games Are Art Misses The Point

People insist that video games are or are not art based on the way they experience them. Those who call games art can approach them as art: they play for visuals, music, and atmosphere. Those who don’t call games art might distantly recognize that they contain art, but it’s negligible to their experience; they play for challenge, improvement, and self-expression. These types of gamers share in common that they play to experience emotions, but differ on which emotions: awe or satisfaction.

To put this another way: building a house requires thought, planning, and engineering; clear choice goes into the materials and colors of its walls, roof, and floor to achieve a specific look and feel. To the architect, a house may be art. To the home owner, a house is shelter, safety, and storage space.

Another comparison: a TV viewer might admire an Olympic ice skater’s performance as art, but the ice skater herself, in real time, fixates on execution. Until she’s completed each spin, jump, and twirl, it’s unlikely that she’ll view her own moves as art; she doesn’t have the time or concentration to spare for that. Not every game has the difficulty level of Olympic ice skating, of course, but gamers who don’t play for art and encounter an easy game can still take on the challenge of besting their own past selves.

First-time Super Metroid players might be playing art. Super Metroid speedrunners aren’t.

If anyone asks me whether games are art, I answer that it doesn’t matter. Games are what gamers experience—and those experiences come in all flavors.

Ten Breeds of Memorable and Immortal 2D Sprites (part 2)

6. Beastly Screen-filling Sprites

Long before Shadow of the Colossus and Monster Hunter, 2D game developers understood the power of monsters too big to be contained in a TV. After the player grows used to smaller enemies, a large one leaves an impression.

EarthBound proves that enormous enemies don’t even need to look especially threatening:

Developers typically save this technique for late-game bosses, so I won’t ruin the surprise by directly showing some of my favorites, but other examples of capital-sized enemies include Secret of Mana, EarthBound, Chrono Trigger, and Mother 3. The Etrian Odyssey series has also taken this idea to another level, but I’ll reserve that for another day—and a post to itself!

One major series that doesn’t take full advantage is Pokémon. The third and fourth generations of games, Ruby and Sapphire and Diamond and Pearl, had a cool Pokédex feature comparing the height scale of a human with any Pokémon the player had caught to demonstrate how small a Diglett or how large a Wailord is, but during battles, size differences only show in the home console games. In the main portable games, almost every fully-evolved monster looks about the same size as any other, whether it’s the fourteen-foot-tall creator of the oceans or a dancing 4’11” Mexican pineapple duck.

We know that Kyogre doesn't like Groudon too much, forcing Rayquaza to step in and stop the two of them from destroying the world, but what happens when Kyogre swims around the ocean it created and runs into Lugia, the guardian of the seas? If Kyogre assigned that role to Lugia, maybe they hang out together. If Lugia took on that role without being commissioned, does Kyogre have a problem with it? Ever thought about that? Ludicolo is a ridiculous design if there ever was one, though that's part of why I love it. More of why I love it is for being the underdog who's destroyed most Kyogre movesets since 2002.

The appearance of a legendary Pokémon could inspire awe if drawn to scale, so this could be considered a missed opportunity. Still, the sale of 215 million games makes it obvious that players already love Pokémon and its artwork to death (and I’m one of them), so maybe leaving well enough alone is for the best. If nothing else, the absence of visible size differences helps convey that most Pokémon can contribute to a victory under the right circumstances.

The final four await!

Ten Breeds of Memorable and Immortal 2D Sprites (part 1)

1. Sprites that Reward Amazing Accomplishments

Metroid is a go-to example, but Chrono Trigger also really ran with this idea.

The Moonlight Parade dancer only performs spinners for winners! According to Lucca, Frog as a human is a 'dish.' I can't speak for the culture of Guardia Kingdom, but in most culinary schools here on Earth, Frog as a frog is more of a dish. The famed Akira Toriyama as a Chrono Trigger sprite. The famed Yuji Horii as a Chrono Trigger sprite. If you just said 'Who-ji Horii?', you're probably not a Dragon Quest fan.

The challenge involved in seeing these sprites makes them rare—and their rarity makes them memorable. The Moonlight Parade dancer only shows her face (and her footloose skills!) after beating the game. Frog in his human form is “only” one battle tougher to get on screen, but some people will never see him outside of online sprite rips because their principles won’t let them meet the requirements. On the right are game versions of Akira Toriyama and Yuji Horii, who can’t be found unless players beat Lavos with only Crono and Marle or beat the souped-up, higher-stats, not-supposed-to-be-defeated Lavos at the Undersea Palace.

For a more modern and less 2D example, check out the ending of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The character involved would have been striking even if the game had as little story as the original Legend of Zelda, but the tease of this appearance from the beginning helps further. Delayed gratification works.

Four more breeds, all discussed at greater length than the first one!